Rocky in Louisiana

Monday, March 18th

Jounral Entry by Spriha Pandey '24

The first day of the Rockefeller Center's trip to Louisiana was set primarily at Tulane University's Newcomb Institute, which is the world's largest academic Gender Equity institute. On the first day, we arrived in New Orleans a little before noon. We grabbed a quick lunch before our first meeting at the institute, which featured glimpses of its history throughout the building. As we entered the third floor, we saw pottery adorning the walls of the institute. These pots were decorated by women who had studied at the institute in the past, and the training was intended to provide women with marketable skills that could help them support themselves and their families. Since then, the institute has evolved into a center for leading-edge gender research and leadership.


The students in front of a sign that says Newcomb Institute

Next, we had the opportunity to chat with the Institute's Executive Director Anita Raj. She told us about her work in Louisiana, as well as internationally. We had the opportunity to learn about the gendered aspects of the Louisiana Violence Experiences Survey. She talked about how gender issues are interconnected at an international scale and policy is the key to addressing them. Specifically, she talked about the importance of reaching consensus and compromise in passing bills through legislatures. The journey is all about small wins that can amount to larger change.

Something that stuck with me was her perspective on social work. When asked how she deals with rather morbid topics in her day-to-day work, she noted that she believes that she has been given immense privilege and that she feels a responsibility to give back. "What will you do with this privilege and opportunity?" were her words. We concluded the conversation with a discussion on gender issues in India and Africa.

The day concluded with a dinner where we had the opportunity to delve into local culture and food. Then we headed to get rest before a full day of gender leadership discussions, legislative sessions, and city explorations to follow the next day.

Tuesday, March 19th

Jounral Entry by Rai-Ching Yu '27

We began our day at Bear Cat, a charming cat-themed café, with Professor Sally J Kenney. She initiated the women-focused case program since cases are a memorable vessel of public policy education and the dearth of cases about women or with a gendered analysis. We delved into discussions of cases like Judge Rosalie's successful nomination in Minnesota versus Judge Rosenberg's unsuccessful nomination. Rosenberg faced challenges including rivalries with their male counterparts, lack of unified feminist support, and underestimation due to her gender, leading to her failed candidacy.

We also discussed the DVIP battered women's shelter in Iowa City, where an arrest instigated a movement to close the shelter. We discussed how the feminist movement's differing interpretations complicated efforts to protect it. We shared our experience of writing our own cases during class and asked her how she handled the emotional component of thinking and reading the heavy subjects. Professor Kelley emphasized solidarity with those affected and focused on how the work is very meaningful to those impacted.

Then, we visited the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, exploring exhibits on women, both black and white, who worked for racial equality in the South. We learned about Rosa Freeman Keller's work on desegregating schools and libraries, her organization Save Our Schools; Dorothy Taylor's campaign for Louisiana's House of Representatives; and a Zine for Women's Anti-Violence Movement. We also saw some Tulane rejection letters citing race as the reason, and extremely racist hate mail and satire pieces in response to integration. It illustrates how much progress we've made, but also how much work is needed.


Students in the research center looking at a table with books and papers.

In the French Quarter, we toured Jackson Square and the Louisiana State Museum. An exhibit on Hurricane Katrina detailed the city's history, engineering failures during the storm, and societal inequalities exposed by the disaster. We also immersed ourselves in the cultural richness of Mardi Gras and explored local souvenirs and delicacies like beignets.

Wednesday, March 20th

Jounral Entry by Tanaka Chikati '25

We had a wonderful educational time in Baton Rouge. We sat in on two Committee Hearings. The first was about Commerce, and we watched Sen. Mizell, a woman, chair the meeting. The most memorable was a man who proposed SCR5 - and was talking about Chinese Nationals who were setting up illegal police stations across the country. He wanted to make sure that people in Louisiana were protected from this. Only one Senator asked him follow-up questions, but nobody objected to the proposal, and it went through. This demonstrates the symbolic nature of legislative resolutions and the disturbing impacts of disinformation on our democracy.

We also sat in on the Health and Welfare hearing. Sen. Jackson-Andrews proposed SB278 which proposed increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers. The vision was anti-choice but framed as caring for women before, during, and after giving birth. The highlight of this hearing was a woman who cried as she testified about how the birth center/ help center helped her and her son. It got juicy when Sen. Luneau asked about funding, as part of their financial model included the use of TANF funds, and he wanted to make sure that the state would not get into trouble for using these federal funds for these programs.


The students with the women's caucus.

We then had a wonderful lunch with the Louisiana Legislative Women's Caucus and had amazing Southern food- collard greens, peach cobbler, red beans and rice, punch, and it was amazing talking to Sen. Mizell after seeing her in action. We then had a tour of the Capitol and saw the bullet holes that remained after the shootout that resulted in the death of Sen. Huey P. Long and Dr. Carl Weiss. We also saw the pencil that remained stuck in the ceiling of the State Senate after an explosion happened in the building.

After that we met up with Dartmouth Alums Michael Beutner '19 and Ariel Bedford '12, they talked to us about their work in Baton Rouge, and how life after Dartmouth is basically anything you make it. Ariel Bedford currently serves as the Chief Academic and Impact Office at the National Education Equity Lab while Michael is a Senior Associate at Bernhard Capital Partners.


Students talking to Ariel Bedford.

Overall, this visit was fantastic, it opened my eyes to the workings of government, hearing people testify for themselves was great. It was also amazing seeing women in such male dominated spaces, and it gives me hope that there will be more women speaking out and getting their voices heard.

Thursday, March 21st

Jounral Entry by Brin Jaffe '25

We started the day with breakfast at 9am at Mojo Coffee House, before heading to the New Orleans City Hall for the City Council Meeting. The meeting started with a young girl playing a piano piece before getting into the first topic, which was colon and rectal cancer awareness. There was a panel of medical staff and survivors speaking with the council members to raise awareness about earlier testing and to destigmatize going in for colonoscopies. It was interesting to see how the council operated, and how politics manifests at the local level.

Our next stop was meeting with Alice Glenn, the executive vice president of New Orleans and Company. With Alice, we discussed the intersections between business, government, and nonprofits in constructing society and policy. We also learned how the tourism industry and gender policy interact, for example, how many people in the tourism workforce are women who in turn benefit from increased tourism. We ended the meeting talking about how New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole need to invest in sustainability to support tourism and city survival from extreme weather conditions.

We had a delicious lunch at Satsuma Maple Cafe before we transitioned to the maternal and child health panel hosted by Claire Daniel, Meshawn A Siddiq, and Kimberly Novod at Tulane University. We learned about Kimberly Novod's grassroots nonprofit Saul's Light which fights for legislation to support women who experience stillbirths. The topic of doulas was also prominent as a new form of maternal care. The panel was not only informative on how grassroots organizations achieve policy change but was very moving to hear how dedicated and persevering these women are to providing care to women in Louisiana, not despite their hardships but because of them.


The students with members of the maternal and child health panel.

Afterward, we finished up at Tulane by touring the Newcomb archives with Bernadette Birzer where we learned about first, second, and third-wave feminism at Newcomb College. We finished up the trip by having dinner on the Natchez paddlewheel boat! It was pouring rain, but we got to explore the engine room and see how the paddlewheel worked. For dinner, there was a delicious buffet on the boat where we had our final taste of traditional Louisiana cuisine. That night we packed up and fell asleep early for our flights, and we will all miss Louisiana!